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Sunday, January 4, 2015

Lion taming risk and Workmen Compensation (WC) Act

I had posted earlier on ‘Workmen’s Compensation Act 1923’ which aims to provide compensation for the injury or death to workmen arising out of an din the course of employment .  This is a beneficial legislation for the workers.   The amount of compensation to be paid depends on the nature of the injury and the average monthly wages and age of workmen.

In United Kingdom, it is the - Workmen's Compensation Act 1906, an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom which deals with the right of working people for compensation for personal injury.  It fixes the compensation that a workman may recover from an employer in case of accident, giving to a workman, except in certain cases of "serious and willful misconduct," a right against his employer to a certain compensation on the mere occurrence of an accident where the common law gives the right only for negligence of the employer.  For the purpose of the Act – a  'workman' was defined as:"any person who enters into or works under a contract of service or apprenticeship with an employer, whether by way of manual labour, clerical work or otherwise, and whether the contract is expressed or implied, is oral or in writing." Exceptions were made, including non-manual workers employed on annual pay over £250, casual workers employed "otherwise than for the purposes of their employer's trade or business", outworkers and family workers. Hence specific exclusions were made at both the top and bottom end of the labour market.

The 1897 Act was subject to numerous restrictions.  Employment had to be by an Undertaker in an industry regarded as particularly dangerous, the list including Railways, factories, mines and quarries.  Crown employment was within the Act, although there was no cover for those employed on Naval or Military service.  The 1906 Act gave much more to general effect.  Under the new Act, coverage was extended beyond ‘dangerous’ occupations to any person who enters into or works under a contract of service or apprenticeship with an employer, whether by way of manual labour, clerical work or otherwise. Non-manual workers were however, protected only if they earned less than £250 per year.

In case you are trying to stretch your imagination for ‘dangerous occupations’ perhaps ‘lions taming’ would qualify to be one – remember those were the days when circus was extremely popular.  Here is an interesting extract of a case law : Hapelman v. Poole (1908),  as read in Stone’s Insurance Cases by Gilbert Stone, Bar-at-law.

If nothing else, lion taming makes for a great metaphor. Teachers tame lions when they discipline a group of rowdy students. Business people tame lions when they assuage an angry customer or steady a snarling boss.  The literal meaning of ‘lion taming’ is -  to tame, or rather train, the giant feline.  The big aggressive feline would obey the instructions and do mundane tasks as ordained by the ring master. 
photo source : wikipedia

In the impugned case – a  workman was employed by a lion tamer to look after baggage, clean out cages, and generally make himself useful, but it was no part of his duty to feed the lions. One afternoon the workman was left in sole charge of the cages of lions,  with orders to see that no harm came to them or anyone else by reason of their fierceness. One of the lions got out of the cage and into a dressing room, but there was no evidence to show how this happened. The workman went into the dressing room and tried to drive the lion back into the cage, when the lion turned on him and killed him.

In a claim by the workman's dependants against the employer under the Workmen's Compensation Act, 1906, the county court judge dismissed the claim, being of opinion that the facts were consistent only with the deceased having interfered with the lion for some purpose of his own, there being no evidence to support the theory that the lions had fought or that the deceased had acted otherwise on an emergency.

However, in the appeal, it was held that as the deceased had been left in charge, it was his duty to try to get the lion back into the cage, and that as he was killed in the discharge of that duty the accident arose " out of and in the course of his employment."

Strange are the ways of people and this case is interesting to say the least

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

17th Nov. 2014.

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